Amid uproar, FT minister says ‘regrets’ misinterpreted remark about churches

Federal Territories minister, Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Federal Territories minister, Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 3 — Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor has denied a news report citing him saying Christian leaders were using churches to air personal grievances against the government.

The Federal Territories minister said he only used churches in the broader sense to remind all houses of worship, including “mosques, surau and temples”, not to spread falsehoods that can lead to hatred.

“I regret that my speech at the Titiwangsa Kenduri 1Wilayah Persekutuan this morning had been misinterpreted by Malaysia Insight [sic],” he said in a statement this evening, referring to his remarks as reported by news portal The Malaysian Insight.

“I did not say the church institution is a place to spread defamation. I only reminded all houses of worship to continue their respective religious activities and not make a place of worship as a centre to spread fake news until it causes hatred against the Government. Whatever news disseminated in houses of worship on current issues must be verified so as not to cause defamation,” he added.

The minister asserted that he had personally defended the use of a plot of land in Kampung Pandan Indah for the construction of a new church building, although it was unclear why he mentioned it.

“I only referred to the church as an example as what I said was representative of all other houses of worship, including mosques, surau, and temples,” the Barisan Nasional secretary-general ended in his short statement.

Tengku Adnan was responding to uproar within Malaysia’s minority Christian community following news reports that he had allegedly singled out sermons in churches as being used to spread “fake news” that put the government in a negative light.

Another news portal Malaysiakini also reported the Putrajaya MP warning Christian leaders not to “read things on the internet or whatever comes to you, then talk about it in church” because many of them were untrue.

Malaysia’s umbrella body representing Protestant churches, the Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM), issued an immediate statement expressing shock.

“This is an unfounded statement and calls into question the spiritual integrity and witness of the church in imparting the faith in line with the Gospel as revealed in the holy scriptures.

“It is an affront to the Church for the Minister to insinuate that our religious duty in preaching during worship services are ‘lies’ because it is critical of societal issues,” CCM general secretary Hermen Shastri said in the statement.

He also said it was “sad” that Tengku Adnan had made what he called a “derogatory statement about Christians” during World Interfaith Harmony Week, celebrated in the first week of February annually.

“He should be applauding the fact that religious communities in our country teach their people of justice, peace and harmony which has helped to make our nation what it is today,” Hermen added.

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